CAR blog: Porsche vs Honda – which Nurburgring lap is your winner?

Published: 16 September 2013

A supercar cracking a less than 7min Nurburgring laptime, and a hot hatch mustering a time of under 8min – both are records, and both Porsche and Honda were ramming the numbers down our throats at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show. It’s mighty impressive that if the Porsche 918 Spyder lapped the world famous German track in the new record time the hypercar set last week – 6min 57sec – then the more humble Honda Civic Type-R would fly through around a minute later (so Honda claims). Think about that for a moment: a 12.9-mile track, the same driving talent on the same road, and the Honda hatchback – which costs 30 times less than the Porsche – isn’t embarrassed.

Of course, racers – drag racers, touring car engineers, F1 boffins – will tell you that it’s the last few tenths, those vital seconds between Pole Position and 22nd – that cost the most, are the hardest to get and require the greatest skill. Beating the Gumpert Apollo Sport’s record by a full 14 seconds shows the scale of the Porsche’s eco-supercar’s achievement.

>> Click here to watch the Porsche 918 Spyder’s record-breaking Nurburgring lap time in full

Plenty of you won’t give two figs about how fast a lottery jackpot-swallowing supercar can whizz around the world’s most infamous toll road, but what about when a Japanese hatchback promises equally game-changing performance for around one-thirtieth the price of a Weissach pack-equipped 918? That’s got to be worth a look.

That’ll be the Honda Civic Type-R, which in its forthcoming guise, is going through must as much a self-rediscovery metamorphosis as Porsche’s flagship, which embraces battery power, electric motors, and all-wheel-drive. The new Honda will ditch 9000rpm redline VTEC engines for a turbocharged 2.0-litre. Less fugu sushi, more cod and chips, and all that.

>> Click here to read CAR’s complete scoop on the new 2015 Honda Civic Type-R

Honda is promising a Renaultsport Megane-busting lap time around the ‘Ring, meaning a sub-8m 7.97sec lap time. Honda insiders say they’re already very close to cracking that particular nut, and with the car not on sale until 2015, there’s plenty of time to shed yet more precious seconds. A hot hatch with a lap time beginning in ‘7’? I’ll go out on a limb and back Honda to manage it with its 276bhp+, limited-slip differential-equipped mojo-capturer.

Of all the lap time benchmarks trotted out by manufacturers, the Nurburgring is probably the least irrelevant. Of course Ferraris are fast around Fiorano – they’re developed there. The fearsome ‘Ring has rougher surfaces and more undulations than most regular circuits, and keeps a car at the limits of its performance for more than 12 miles.

Given no amount of uproar or disinterest is going to stop manufacturers honing their new models on racetracks, it’s more interesting to instead focus on which of these two gallant endeavours for bragging rights is the most relevant. The carbon-bodied, 800bhp exotic species that push the very limits of what automobile engineering can achieve in the here and now, or the workaday everyman cars that cost less than a supercar’s paint scheme, but still hammer around on a par with an R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R – one of the original ’Ring heroes?

The Civic will no doubt be eventually beaten by a future fast hatch, such is the pace of tyre and powertrain development – but it could very well be lessons learned from cars like the 918 and turned mainstream that elicit new heights of performance. And while it’s easy to fall into a lazy verdict that the 918 is a pricey millionaires’ toy playing at appeasing the Green Party, caps must be doffed to the first road car ever to a do a ‘six-minute-something’ around the ’Ring – all of it while lugging around 312 cells of battery ballast. That’s some statement of intent for a hybrid. But the best part of the whole exercise is that you’ll soon be able to buy a family-friendly four-pot designed with a very similar ethos.